When digitalization meets agriculture

Swiss animal feed manufacturer UFA is the first customer to commission Bühler’s PelletingPro, having co-developed the digital service together with Bühler. The result speaks for itself. UFA achieves consistent quality in its end products and saves 20 percent energy in its pelleting process. It is now installing the PelletingPro service on all its systems.

The idyllic countryside of Herzogenbuchsee in Switzerland is home to one of the five sites owned by animal feed manufacturer UFA. The feed mill rises a full 14 stories into the air. Feed mixtures for live-stock are produced here around the clock. The key difficulty is to produce a consistently uniform end product. The company set out to remedy the situation with a digital solution. “We work with natural raw materials, which makes it challenging to consistently achieve the same quality,” explains Reto Mösch, Head of Production & Technology at UFA. “Talking to Bühler, we discovered that they were already one step ahead and had a pilot project underway,” he says.

The two partners quickly decided to work together on a solution. The partnership was very successful and resulted in the new PelletingPro service.

“During our collaboration, we realized how much experience Bühler has in process engineering and automation,” Mösch explains. “There were some tricky times during the course of the project when things didn’t really progress, but one side always motivated the other to keep going.”

We can reduce the energy consumption of the press by around 20 percent or increase its capacity by the same amount.

Reto Mösch, Head of Production & Technology at UFA

Maintaining moisture content

“The advantage of PelletingPro is the consistent quality regardless of the raw material and independent of the prevailing weather conditions. And we can monitor and control the moisture content in the entire thermal line,” Mösch explains. “By using PelletingPro, we can reduce the energy consumption of the press by around 20 percent or increase its capacity by the same amount.”

These advantages prompted UFA to further invest in digitalization. “We decided to use PelletingPro on all our thermal lines,” he says.

The digital service has been put through its paces by the operators at UFA. “The challenge for our operators is that they manage five lines,” says Martin Bolkenius, Technical Manager at UFA. “You have to constantly monitor them and adjust them accordingly so that the right quality is achieved.”

Martin Bolkenius Martin Bolkenius Martin Bolkenius, Technical Manager at UFA, monitors production on site using the dashboard.
PelletingPro service PelletingPro service PelletingPro service enables consistent quality regardless of the raw material.

To assist operators in this task, UFA has equipped the mixer with a moisture measurement system, specifically the DCMA (Multi NIR Inline System). This advanced installation enables the continual assessment of a large volume of product as it moves through the mixer, where near-infrared sensors are strategically placed to analyze the product.

“Thanks to the PelletingPro system, we’re able to anticipate the behavior of the product in the subsequent pressing stages. We have the capability to adjust for variables such as air conditions, ambient temperatures, and raw material moisture within the system. This allows us to maintain a consistent quality of product delivered to the press,” explains Bolkenius. “The PelletingPro system can predict the final product moisture to a maximum deviation of +/- 0.5 percent. Most of the time, we actually achieve 0.3 percent.”

Find out more about UFA’s digital journey and the development of PelletingPro.

Innovation in a dynamic environment

Achieving consistent quality in their final product is not the only challenge that UFA has faced. “We work in a very dynamic environment,” explains Mösch. “The agricultural industry is undergoing structural change; there is a consolidation into fewer, larger operations that are more receptive to technology. We need to keep pace with that.” There are also new trends in nutrition. One example is the increased use of oat milk instead of cow’s milk. As a result, more oats are being grown in Switzerland. “One liter of oat milk yields around 4 kilograms of by-products. The aim is to ensure that we utilize these side streams and drive the circular economy,” says Mösch.

Due to rising energy prices and its goal of being COneutral by 2040, UFA must not only become more efficient in its manufacturing processes, but also in all related areas, including logistics. UFA tries to avoid empty runs wherever possible and generates up to 20 percent of its electricity using photovoltaics. It is currently working with universities and Bühler on a project that aims to use waste heat to produce steam and feed it back into the production cycle as energy. UFA is also working on innovative solutions for greater sustainability in its products.

pellets pellets A sample shows that UFA achieves perfect feed pellets at all times.

The company has released a new mineral feed that helps reduce cow methane production while increasing milk production efficiency by 10-15 percent. The feed is priced the same as conventional feeds. However, any extra costs incurred in producing this specialized feed are offset by the revenue generated from selling carbon credits.

As a major player with a market share of 40 percent in Switzerland, UFA sees its duty be a leader in sustainability and to pave the way for smaller companies. “Bühler is an important partner for us as it operates globally in various sectors. This allows us to learn from the best around the world,” says Mösch.


When: Founded in 1958.

Where: Herzogenbuchsee, Switzerland

What: UFA is a supplier of livestock feed for customers in Switzerland.

Customers: UFA’s customers are Swiss livestock farmers.

Bühler: UFA operates five Bühler feed production plants and played a key role in the co-development of the digital Bühler service PelletingPro.

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